Welcome to Buy You a Drink, the weekly column where GOOD’s resident mixologist proposes libations to lubricate the news. This week, rum drinks to sip while pondering the seamy, suddenly-public exploits of the United States Secret Service.
Since details began dribbling out concerning alleged Secret Service assignations with escorts in Cartagena, pundits have shot viscous outrage all over the news cycle. Point your cable box at any talking-head spewfest and you’ll find outrage directed at all angles: outrage at conduct unbecoming a federal agent; outrage that partying in the line of duty might endanger the president; outrage at alleged waste of taxpayer dollars—even outrage directed toward gay people, because this, too, is all their fault somehow.
At the risk of causing further chafing—and because those other angles are boring and/or preposterous—allow me to rattle off my own reasons why this whole tawdry telenovela warrants capital-letter Concerns About America. I, for one, am outraged at:
The disrespect for hardworking professionals in the service industry. According to one escort, the most dastardly SS agent agreed to pay her going rate of $800 for her services, received his end of the bargain, then proffered a measly 30 bucks as compensation. That is downright impolite, and it sets a very bad example. With American manufacturing in its late Ben Button phase, all tiny and amnesiac, service jobs are all we have left in this country. Nowadays, even America’s most expensive colleges dump their unemployed graduates into chain restaurant gigs. So it behooves us all to learn the benefits of playing by the rules—in this case, Rules One AND Two are “Do Not Haggle.” The third is “Tip High.”
The lack of discretion on the part of the dozen Men-in-Black-Gone-Wild. Dudes, you just spent the night with half of the working girls in a town where prostitution is legal. You work for the Feddy Gov, at a level high enough to require serious security clearance. You’re in no position to refuse payment, however unreasonable you may find the rates. Especially when there are local cops “stationed in the hallway.” It’s embedded right there in the name Secret Service. You never saw Secret Squirrel squawking about the outrageous price of a Half & Half within earshot of the cops, did you? Pro tip: if you’re in the Secret Service and the international press is feverishly speculating about the miniscule size of your… counteroffer, you’re doing it wrong.
The total lack of perspective. These escort-procuring, bottle-service brosephs continue to dominate the news cycle when far more important Secret Service business is going down. Namely, figuring out if Ted Nugent is merely a douchebag or a capital-letter Douchebag Meriting Prosecution.
The douche dilemma—while admittedly a major comedown from Cartagena in terms of Secret Service assignments—is not as simple as it may appear at first blush. When Nugent promised a crowd of NRA members he’d be “dead or in jail by this time next year” if Obama is re-elected, it was tempting to write off his assassination-tinged bluster as the ranting of a harmless professional eccentric. But as Mel Gibson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector, and scores of others have taught us, professional eccentrics aren’t always harmless. I score the Secret Service’s willingness to treat Nugent the same as any citizen who makes a public threat to the President as a point in its favor.
In fact, I think it warrants a couple of drinks—for us, mind you, not for the buffoons whose drunken antics put the Secret Service on front street.
The Call: A Fine Rum, or Two
We must drink rum, to commemorate the analogy used by the key Cartagena witness in her interview with The New York Times: “'It’s the same, but it’s different,' she said, indicating that she is much more selective about her clients and charges much more than a streetwalker. 'It’s like when you buy a fine rum or a BlackBerry or an iPhone. They have a different price.'”
Of course, some rums manage to provide escort quality at something closer to streetwalker rates. Take for example The Kraken, a tasty, well-rounded spiced rum made from Trinidadian molasses, bottled and marketed (brilliantly) in the States, and sold for less than $20 a fifth in some precincts. I recently discovered that the Kraken mixes well with another mass-produced marvel of Latin America, the highly caffeinated Inca Kola:
1 ½ - 2 oz. Kraken spiced rum
Inca Kola, to taste
Pour rum over ice in a tall glass. Add Kola. Whee!
As its name suggests, Kraka-Kola is a good choice for those yearning for a rapid restoration of order to the universe (besides those ousted from the Secret Service, 1966 Roger Sterling springs to mind). I’m not sure what the “artificial and natural flavors” listed on the Inca label include, but a few sips of Inca alone makes me crave a full case of the stuff to pour down my gullet so that I might get a lot of shit done really fast. Mixed into a Kraka-Kola, the richness of the rum and the alcohol’s natural depressant properties temper the jacked-upedness somewhat. Exercise caution just the same. (For example, avoid serving Kraka-Kolas at any function involving relaxed vice laws and a dozen of your most irresponsible work buddies.)
For those more interested in quiet contemplation, I suggest a rich mahogany cocktail that pairs well with cigars; something worthy of the old dignity of the agency charged with safeguarding our leaders. I call this rummy spin on the Manhattan:
Anywhere But Cartagena
2 ½ oz. good, dark rum (I like Ron Zacapa Solera 23, from Guatemala, routinely available for less than $50 a fifth)
¾ oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters or Amargo Chuncho
Combine with cracked ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
The ABC is a good call if you’re looking to learn from the recent past while simultaneously putting it in your rear-view mirror, as opposed to obliterating history in a whirlwind of new activity.
Whatever L’Affaire Colombienne ultimately means for the careers and reputations of the individuals involved, the Obama Administration should rest a bit easier knowing that the pundits who stoke public opinion always operate on the Kraka-Kola model: eager for more quick stimulation, readying the synthetic outrage, already greased up in preparation for their next tawdry fix.
Assess Ken’s rum analogies, or propose future drink recipients, at email@example.com.